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Snake River Fire could be contained soon

UPDATED: Mon., July 17, 2017

Firefighters stand on a ridge overlooking the Snake River Fire, which has burned 3,180 acres and is 20-percent contained as of July 17, 2017. (Washington Department of Natural Resources)
Firefighters stand on a ridge overlooking the Snake River Fire, which has burned 3,180 acres and is 20-percent contained as of July 17, 2017. (Washington Department of Natural Resources)
By Elaine Williams Lewiston Tribune

The Snake River Fire burning in Garfield County could be suppressed as early as Wednesday.

The fire, about 10 miles west of Clarkston, had reached more than 2,500 acres by Sunday and was expected to hit 3,100 acres this morning, said Michael Krueger, the public information officer on the blaze.

It is the largest of three fires burning in the region, likely caused by lightning strikes Friday night or early Saturday morning.

The other two are the Powerline Fire and the Corral Creek Fire in Idaho, about 30 miles south of Lewiston.

The Powerline Fire swelled from about 400 acres to 1,500 acres Sunday, while the Corral Creek Fire was more stable, growing only by about 100 acres to 800 acres, according to a news release from the Idaho Department of Lands.

No structures have burned, and no evacuations have been ordered on any three of the fires.

But Zaza Road past Deer Creek and past Hoover Point is closed because of the Corral Creek and Powerline fires, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Windy, hot weather has created challenges for firefighters. Four volunteer firefighters were treated in the hospital for dehydration and later sent home, including one who was airlifted to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Krueger said.

The three other volunteers were taken to Garfield County Memorial Hospital in Pomeroy, Krueger said. “They were asked to do a lot of physical labor.”

The volunteers were from Garfield County Fire District No. 1, which led the initial attack on the fire with help from other local jurisdictions before the state of Washington assumed direction of the fire on Saturday, Krueger said.

The effort now includes at least two Fire Boss single-engine air tankers that can suck water out of the Snake River and other bodies of water, one helicopter that is also drawing water from the river and an airplane that is dumping retardant on the blaze.

Most of the work on the ground is happening with hand tools because the terrain is too steep for engines to reach, Krueger said. “I wouldn’t call it vertical, but it’s very close.”

About 275 specially trained firefighters from more than 10 cities and counties in Washington battled the fire Sunday and that number is expected to reach more than 300 today, as some leave and fresh personnel arrives. Experts from other agencies, such as the Washington Department of Natural Resources and private contractors, are helping too.

The out-of-town crews are staying in tents that dot the football field at the high school in Pomeroy. Food, water, showers and medical care are available at the site, Krueger said. “Within a matter of hours, this (was) a fully functioning city.”

To the east in Idaho, efforts to extinguish the Power Line and Corral Creek fires are expected to intensify today. A helicopter and five air tankers fought those blazes Sunday. Six 20-person crews were expected to arrive with engines, heavy equipment and more air resources.

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